The case of a very senior manager, who was very experienced, who had done all the training, and knew all the models, yet was in a very big fix. When asked to reflect, he noticed that he had found himself in similar situations in previous jobs. With the Enneagram he finally identified a life-long pattern that played out at work, home and in the community.
This Executive Director, Information Technology had been involved in making a large number of significant changes in a very large organization. He had undertaken his role diligently and achieved substantial results, often at great cost to himself and his family, as hours had been long and the job had been very stressful. But now, the rest of the organization’s staff were “gunning for him”. A report, from a review commissioned by the CEO, had been devastatingly critical of him. He was deeply puzzled: “I have only done what I was paid to do. I committed myself totally to what I was required to do!”
Enneagram awareness for the Executive Director:
Coaching commenced with a “typing interview”. As he discovered his Enneagram type (Type 8), he was confronted with the strengths and weaknesses that come with the territory. He discovered that people who are Type 8s are often the “movers and shakers” in organizations. Give them a job, and they do it … typically, regardless of the costs to people who try to stand in the way. Until they develop the sensitivity that comes with understanding the compulsions of their type, they force their way through all resistances.
The usual “blind spot” for people of his type is a total lack of awareness of their compulsion to take control and achieve an outcome. They do whatever it takes to achieve their goal, regardless of the costs. They usually have little, or no, awareness of the impact they have on others. Others find people of this type extremely intimidating. Rather than confronting them directly, staff “make them pay” by finding ways to undercut and sabotage their projects. This attempt at domination and control by Type 8s, met with the undercover rage and revenge by reluctant staff who felt they were “in the firing line”, wastes a huge amount of time and energy, and destroys careers daily, in organizations throughout the world!
After working with the Executive Director to identify his Enneagram type, he started to understand, for the first time, how significantly he had contributed to this situation. He was able to identify that this had been a repeating pattern in his career. Although he had achieved many significant things, in many very large organizations, and had thrown his substantial energy into every task and project, he had never understood why his efforts were not appreciated! He simply had not understood his impact on others, until he read the descriptions of his type, and recognized his life-long pattern.
After 2 coaching sessions, he decided to quit his current position and apply for a new job where he could start afresh. He believed that there was “too much water under the bridge” for him to rebuild trust in his current job. In the interview for his new job, he was open about his personality type, and the problems it had caused him and others. When he was chosen for the position, he asked for on-going feedback. He is now very aware of the strengths and weaknesses of his type. He remains very sensitive to the impact he has on others, yet still uses his considerable power to influence the organizations’ directions, and gets things done. All his staff have now undergone Enneagram training, and this is part of their daily discussions as they work through issues within, and outside the Department.
The case of the VERY UNHAPPY team that was being ripped apart after many years of entrenched conflict. The team’s manager and team members had been counselled by senior managers, internal HR staff, and had attended MANY training programs in teamwork and conflict resolution. In one day, using the Enneagram, core issues were finally understood, and a realistic plan for resolution put into place.
This technical team had a problem they described as a “personality clash” between a long-standing, highly experienced, technical member of the team, and the team’s manager. The conflict had become intolerable. The team’s manager, and other team members, were pushing senior management to sack the technical expert as they could no longer tolerate the tension
The technical staff member agreed to undertake a typing interview after being assured that information gathered would remain confidential unless he chose to share it with others. He knew he was in serious trouble, and was keen to do anything to understand why his relationship with the team and his manager had reached such a low point.
The interview assisted him discover that he was an Enneagram Type 1. This type’s compulsion revolves around making everything perfect. As he started to hear about all the characteristics of his type, he appeared relieved. He finally felt understood! For the first time, he could see the balance between his strengths, and the down side of his personality type. He was finally seeing his compulsive need to correct things, something that had previously been a “blind spot”. He had seen the correction of every mistake, regardless of its priority, as the totally responsible thing to do. His zealousness also applied to errors made by fellow team members, who felt judged, damaged, inferior, defensive and alienated when they were on the receiving end of his judgements. They were sick of, what they described as, his “superior” behaviour. He could now understand why team members totally avoided him.
A meeting was scheduled with the team for the following day. The technical staff member agreed to read more about his type, and prepare a presentation about himself to start the meeting. He was very open about himself, describing his strengths and weaknesses, using specific examples that the team could remember. As they listened, their jaws dropped! They were “gob smacked”! Everything he said about himself finally made total sense to them, now he had explained his type! He no longer appeared an ogre! They could see his sincerity, and his desire to rebuild relationships.
The rest of the morning’s session was devoted to action planning. Many decisions were made to establish and maintain on-going harmony. In addition, if problems started to escalate, two mature team members would act as “go-betweens”. If they saw rising tensions, they would step in, build mutual understanding between the parties, and sort out the issue prior to “melt down”. By the end of the meeting they seemed confident that they would be able to intervene and keep the team productive and intact. Over 12 months later, this truce is still working. Better still, the organization was able to retain a very experienced, competent staff member.
The case of “THE TEAM THAT WASN’T A TEAM”. Members had undertaken team training and personality profiling, including MBTI. Yet they were still intolerant of each other, were reluctant to assist others when the pressure was on, and were not growing and developing as effective, productive organizational staff. A 2 day workshop, using the Enneagram as the core model, changed all that.
A work team of 27 people, representing a variety of organizational levels, was experiencing many tensions and irritations when required to pull together in times of crisis. The manager wanted them to understand each others’ strengths and focus less on things that irritated them. She had undertaken many forms of management and leadership training, and was eventually introduced to the Enneagram. She decided this was exactly what her team needed.
The 2 day workshop was designed to run on consecutive Fridays. The first day overviewed each type, and staff members were intrigued as they identified themselves in the profiles. Emails sent after day 1, were enthusiastic. “I was fascinated … that everyone seemed to be able to identify strongly with one of the nine personality types. I was also interested in how different some of the personality types were. When I heard the background and theory about some (types), I was struggling to imagine how people could experience the world this way. So, it was great, and I was surprised, when people put their hands up and said “Yep! That’s me!” and then talked about what life is like for them. Just excellent!”
Another said, “I really enjoyed it – although it was quite confronting to acknowledge your “faults”… I learned a lot about myself, but more importantly, I learned a lot about the other people who attended. Knowing the characteristics of each personality certainly helps explain why people react (or don’t react) the way I would expect.” Another said, “It was good to find out why I am the way I am. MBTI just does not go far enough.”
Day 2 focussed on the implications of each member’s type, and how it played out daily in team interactions. Safe feedback activities, referring to typical characteristics of each type, provided an opportunity for individuals to reflect and identify those aspects that related to themselves and their behaviour.
An action session laid the foundations for change. For example: Types that found it hard to ask for help, asked for specific assistance in current tasks from team members present. Types who found it hard to say “No”, had an opportunity to practice these skills and receive immediate feedback from others. The “worriers” in the group were given the space to discuss concerns, without others “drowning them out”. Strategies were devised to ensure the worst did not happen! The manager, a rather flamboyant and creative person, was able to hear (in a way that was safe for team members) how her dramatic style made life difficult when the team was frantically working to a very tight deadline.
Each team member had the chance to explore how they (in type) impacted the team’s functioning. The workshop was constructive and practical. Long term improvements in understanding and functioning were achieved.